Tracking the College Gridiron Stars of the Future
Football Recruiting Report
Thursday, July 18, 2002
By Sammy Batten
Staff Writer for The Fayetteville Observer
Howard keeps Clinton
pipeline flowing to Greenville;
Mammoth lineman Black chooses 'football school'
athlete who may be the state's best "Dark Horse'' prospect, and another
prospect — who was given the "wait-and-see'' by some major programs that
wanted him to shed weight — are East Carolina's latest football commitments.
Brian Howard, a wide receiver from state 2-A powerhouse Clinton, and massive
Lexington offensive lineman Virgil Black verballed to the Pirates on Tuesday
after visits to the ECU campus earlier in the week.
Both attended one-day sessions of the school's summer football camp. Howard
was in Greenville on Sunday and Black on Monday. Their performances
apparently caught the eye of ECU head coach Steve Logan, who the players
said personally extended their scholarship offers.
"I just planned on going in and doing a little workout for them,'' Howard
said. "I wasn't trying to do anything spectacular. I just ran good routes
and caught the football. I guess that happened to catch Coach Logan's eye
because he did give me a scholarship offer. I was grateful for that to
Howard was a starter at wide receiver and defensive back last season as the
Clinton Dark Horses swept the state 2-A championship. The 6-foot-2,
170-pounder enjoyed a productive year on both sides of the ball, but didn't
pile up a lot of gaudy statistics playing in a run-oriented offense.
Most major college recruiters wanted to evaluate Howard further during his
senior season at Clinton this fall. But Logan decided not to hesitate, and
in doing so may have secured a player in the mold of ECU's all-time
receiving leader, Troy Smith.
That comparison was made recently by none other than a former Pirate and NFL
running back, Jerris McPhail, who has been Howard's workout partner this
summer. McPhail is in a unique position to make such a judgment, because he
was also once a prep star for the Dark Horses.
"I'm real close with Jerris,'' Howard said. "We work out every day at the
Clinton High School weight room. He's been helping me work on my speed with
some special drills.
"Jerris told me I remind him of Troy Smith. He said it was because of the
way I carry myself, and that I was tall and had quick feet like Troy.
"I don't know about all that. But I do think I'm quick off the ball. I have
pretty good speed and pretty good hands. My concentration is good. I have
all the mechanics for being a good wide receiver.''
Howard, who has 4.5 speed in the 40-yard dash, said the opportunity to play
receiver in Logan's offense was too good to pass up. He's also looking
forward to working with the ECU quarterbacks, especially Paul Troth, a
highly touted sophomore expected to take over the starting role this season.
"Coach Logan made it clear to me that all of his quarterbacks are pro
material,'' Howard said. "He said they'd have the best throwing to me and
that East Carolina throws the ball more than any school around here.''
As for Black, his weight increased to 355 pounds following a junior season
in which he earned All-Northwest honors from the Winston-Salem Journal. The
6-4 lineman graded out at 80 percent on his blocking assignments and
produced 44 pancake blocks for the Yellow Jackets. He's started every game
since his freshman season for Lexington.
Coaches from Florida, North Carolina, N.C. State, Ohio State and Tennessee
expressed an interest in Black, but none were ready to commit a scholarship.
"A lot of coaches were worried about my weight,'' Black said. "I was 355 and
they said, 'You have to lose some weight before we sign you.' But it was OK
with East Carolina.
"I also wanted to go to a school where I could make a name for myself. I
didn't want to go to a basketball school. I wanted to go to a football
Black has dropped 40 pounds over the summer and currently weighs in at 316.
He hopes to get down to 300 before Lexington opens the 2002 season.
"I've been running every day, working out,'' Black said.
The Pirates are expected to use Black at offensive tackle.
"When I hit somebody, they're going to drop,'' Black said. "The ECU coaches
told me their line is made up of juniors this year. They told me the
starters usually play like 50 snaps a game and the second guy behind them
gets 20 or 22. That's good for a freshman to get his feet wet. My goal is to
play as a freshman. I don't like missing games.''
The commitments from Howard and Black give the Pirates three this week and
South Robeson High running back Robert Tillman verballed to ECU on Monday
and Williamston offensive lineman Michael Horner was the first to commit in
April. Tillman also committed after participating in summer camp in
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